Two Secret Weapons Blowing Apart The Big 12

With the Big 12’s demise now seemingly imminent, what caused such a powerful college sports player to collapse almost overnight?

Kevin Weiberg Chris Bevilacqua

(Kevin Weiberg and Chris Bevilacqua)

It wasn’t just the defection of the Nebraska. In fact, it probably has more to do with two guys you never heard of than anything that’s been reported in the past week.

The prospect of an increased annual television payout from Fox is what first led Texas Athletic Director DeLoss Dodds to meet with Pac-10 officials three weeks ago in Austin to discuss a possible exodus of Big 12 schools to the Pac-10.

So where did that new television plan come from? Pac-10 Commissioner Larry Scott certainly had something to do with it, but the magnet that is the Pac-10 for Texas is more about two Scott hires than the commissioner himself.

In the past five months, Scott has hired Kevin Weiberg as deputy commissioner and Chris Bevilacqua of Creative Artists Agency in Los Angeles. That duo is what spurred the prospect of a Pac-10 Television Network and possible alliance with Fox. (The Fox-TVĀ  business offices are across the street from CAA’s headquarters.)

Weiberg, a former commissioner of the Big 12, spent 18 months as the point man in the development of the Big Ten Television Network.

It was Weiberg who was primarily responsible for the billion-dollar windfall that the Big Ten Network will eventually bring the conference. And it is Weiberg who Scott entrusted with launching a similar venture with for the Pac-10.

Coincidentally, Weiberg was also deputy Big Ten commissioner under Jim Delany in the late ’90s, with the integration of Penn State into the conference one of his primary duties.

Chris Bevilacqua was a co-Founder of College Sports Television (CSTV), a venture that was eventually acquired and re-branded as CBS College Sports. Bevilacqua has since moved on to CAA, the most powerful talent agency in the world. He’s reportedly been charged by Scott to develop a business plan for a Pac-10 Network channel.

Both Weiberg and Bevilacqua will be heavily involved in the next round of television contracts between the conference and Fox. (And ESPN.) Negotiations for those deals will start early next year - which is the reason for the hasty expansion process playing out the past week.

John Ourand of SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL also noted of the CAA-Pac-10 partnership:

CAA also will help stage some of the conference’s events. Scott expects some of CAA’s celebrity clients to be part of events such as football media day. The agency also will bring an entertainment element to an event like the Pac-10 basketball tournament.

Scott added to Jon Weinbach of AOL Fanhouse:

“We intend to highlight the West Coast advantage that we have and highlight more of our connections with the thought leadership out here. I don’t have anything concrete to announce — but there a lot of little things that go into making that happen. The fact is we’re in some of the biggest media markets of the country, like L.A., San Francisco and Seattle, and we’ve got actual rivalries in four states.”

Weinbach also has a notable observation about Bevilacqua that could seemingly give Utah an edge over Kansas if the Pac-10 is to decide between those two schools in the event A&M bolts for the SEC:

One of CAA’s lead executives on the Pac-10 deal, Chris Bevilacqua, helped launch CSTV, the college sports network that CBS purchased in 2005 and is now known as CBS College Sports. He was also a former executive with SCP Worldwide, the entity that owns a Major League Soccer team in Salt Lake City — a potential market for Pac-10 expansion if the league ends up adding the University of Utah.

Now you know the big guns that the Pac-10 has brought to the table in wooing Texas. Not only is the conference promising more annual television money, it has executives in place who have already executed similar ventures - with spectacular financial results.

Not to mention an executive who oversaw Penn State’s assimilation into the Big Ten.

Add in the superficial allure of Hollywood and you can see why Texas is so bent on the breakup of the Big 12.